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From local cuisine to lunch with a view: The first week of food in Dar!

Within the first week of being in Dar, I have tried everything from local street cuisine to high-end food with a view. There were three restaurants that really satisfied the palette, introduced me to the local cuisine, and blew my mind away with how stunning the view was.

Jackie’s Pub:

The pub is situated near Coco Beach and along the strip of bars and clubs frequented mostly by expats. The location is on the peninsula where you can find everything from local street vendors, bougie supermarkets, local restaurants that won’t break the bank, and the high-end Italian (for some reason high-end Italian restaurants are everywhere), Thai, and seafood restaurants.

Jackie’s pub meets the middle of local and high-end. When you walk in, it feels like you are smack dab in the middle of an open air British pub perfect for watching soccer, rugby, or any other Euro sport. Then as you turn left, it’s as if you have entered a Parisian café perfect for people watching and a slower pace of life.

Jackie’s was the first restaurant I ate at in Dar es Salaam and my first introduction into local cuisine. As soon as the waitress arrived at our table, she promptly got right to the menu. Only thing is, we couldn’t understand a word she was saying. She was speaking Swa-nglish (And yes, I made that up for what I refer to as Swahili with a tiny bit of English). So, in situations like these, do as the Romans do (doesn’t really apply here but it sounds nice and a terrible joke shout out to a buddy from home) and choose the thing that sounds like it might taste the best.

Turns out, it was a plate of beef kabobs and plantains. All I was thinking was, YES!, somehow made the right decision. AND, we learned a new word: Mishkaki, Swahili for kabob!

I also must mention that “plantains” are really not plantains in Tanzania. For some reason, Tanzanians prefer green bananas grilled, even though they grow a large quantity of plantains. It is something that I still can’t figure out and even a simple google search could not give me the answer… so hopefully I will know the answer by the time I write an in-depth post on Tanzanian cuisine.

So, after hours of not eating once getting off the flight, I inhaled every bit of that meal. It exceeded all expectations! The beef was cooked to perfection: tender and juicy with a smoky flavor from the grill. These bad boys didn’t need any sauce to make the mouth water. The “plantains” or should I say green bananas were grilled in a way that brought out different flavors I wouldn’t normally associate with a banana. It retained the smoky flavor from the grill exceptionally well and rather than being sweet, its savory taste blended perfectly with the steak. It was an incredible intro to the local cuisine.

 

Billionaires Pub:

Situated along one of the busy paved roads near the apartment and a short walk from the office, Billionaires pub has an inviting environment with the smell of roasted chicken, plantains and beans. I was introduced to this place on my first day by a colleague of mine from Cameroon.

It was only my second day in Dar and I had no idea what to expect. I hoped that my stomach would survive the first real Tanzanian street food. All I heard leading up to these moments is be careful of the food and water and make sure the meat is cooked long enough because of the possibilities of the food being contaminated with virus X or virus Y. It may sound like I am exaggerating here, but in all seriousness as a first-timer to the continent, all I was warned about was be careful with the food and water.

The first bite was… incredible. It was a combination of rice, beans, greens (kale-like), and some kind of meat (no clue what is was, although, it had the texture of octopus and lamb put together). The beans were done to perfection, the meat was not too tough, which I was surprised by (meat in Tanzania is generally on the tougher side), and the rice could have been eaten alone it was that good! Billionaires is now the go-to lunch spot especially when a full meal that could feed two costs less than $2.

On my third lunch visit there, I was greeted by the staff that I have now come to know. The feeling of entering a whole new world with all but a small community is frightening in some ways. I say this because back home, we are used to many, many small communities and networks we can rely on or just throw ourselves into on the daily, but uprooting and moving to a new place where a large majority of the local population does not speak your same language or share the same culture, having regularity such as this lunch spot helps bring the feeling of home to a new place.

 

Mediterraneo:

Wow! A lunch with a post card photo! Mediterranro is situated farther north of the peninsula and the main part of the city, about a 10-minute drive from work. I just have to say that I was spoiled getting to come here on only my second day in the office.

So, picture this: You open the car door and look down at your feet to find that the dirt roads haven’t left you, but as soon as you lift your head, a garden of local fauna, rocks, and beachy architecture come into view. As you start walking, the dirt quickly turns to a solid pathway surrounded by a green sanctuary of plants. Your gaze starts focusing forward where you see a thatched hut made from beautiful wood that contrasts so perfectly with the grey rock and green fauna. This tiki hut, filled with lounge chairs and tables, looks like it is meant only for relaxation, Caribbean cocktails, and laughter.

As you keep walking, hints of blue and aqua come into view. The sounds of rolling ocean waves now in ear shot. The closer you get, the louder the waves become. You are now at a point where the ocean comes into view, the smell of salt water hits you, and this becomes your view:

Mediterraneo with Tree
The view on the way to the table

In Dar, this is high-end Italian food. While the food was delicious, the most memorable part is this view. Even just a week in, I am still in awe that this is my new home for the next year. I just can’t wait for more dinner views like this!

If you have ever been to Dar es Salaam, I’d like to hear about the places you went to and the types of food you ate!

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